Cycling Team Camps are a regular busman’s holiday – annual winter-time get-togethers for professional teams to meet and get comfortable on all-new bikes, dial in race diaries, and set goals for the season ahead, usually in a highly desirable location with sunshine and soigneurs. Always good times. Here at Cannondale though, we wanted to play it a little different this year: we decided to mix our elite road riders and enduro mountain bike racers, along with the Waves crew of wild freeriders all together in one space to light the touch-paper for the year ahead. Here’s the story of the first Cannondale Alt Camp.
Alternative, defined as an adjective by Merriam-Webster, means “offering or expressing a choice”. Expression is at the heart of the EF Education First Pro Cycling Team and whether it is the World Tour races in Europe or the fresh new gravel races in the US, the team is all about experiencing the world on a bike. At the end of 2019, three riders from the “alt roster” convened in Bentonville, Arkansas to kick off the 2nd year of the Alternative Racing program pioneered by the team in 2019.
To mix things up, three Cannondale riders from a very different world of cycling joined them for the fun. Josh ‘Ratboy’ Bryceland, one of the most inspirational riders in mountain bike, Max Nerukar, a creative free-spirit rider, and Ella Conolly, an up and coming Enduro World Series racer showed up to shred. They might not match up in terms of their riding apparel, but they are certainly no strangers to the rigors of professional racing. So, we dropped all of these riders off in Bentonville to see what would shake out.
Needless to say, the camp was a blast. And for the seasoned road pros, they learned a thing or two about bike handling from three of the best in the business. Cycling fans around Bentonville also had the opportunity join group rides with these star bike riders, bringing home the idea that cycling is truly a sport that transcends, is inclusive, and above all has something for everyone.
“Mountain bikes, bonfires, new trails, and learning a few tricks from pro mountain bikers? That’s my kind of team camp. I packed for this thing like I was packing for a camp vacation. Hatchet? Check. Mountain bike? Check. Binoculars? Check. Sense of humor? Check.”
“I’ve visited the Bentonville area a few times now, both for races. It’s cool to come back with my teammates and enjoy what the area has to offer and come together with so many different riders and a truly amazing cycling community. It’s a cool thing to be a part of, for sure.”
“It’s been a great experience to meet and ride with the guys from a completely different discipline within cycling. Always interesting to see how others operate, and what a down to earth bunch of dudes! It’s been rad times exploring Bentonville with Max and Ella, too.”
“My first trip to the US for Alt Camp did not disappoint! It was awesome to have the opportunity to hang out with riders from different disciplines and experience the riding scene and culture in Arkansas together. Josh and Max really push what is possible on a bike which was insane to watch and learn from, and the EF riders seemed stoked to hit the trails with us - completely different to what they usually do on team camps by the sounds of things. Evening bonfires and s’mores completed the camp vibes perfectly. Bentonville was the perfect location as there’s such a huge trail network to explore, it felt like we only scratched the surface! I also enjoyed joining the community rides, especially amazing to witness so many ladies out on bikes with the Women of Oz.”
“After two months of solid rain in the UK, the idea of four days of mild sunshine in the USA didn't sound too bad. A new crew other than a couple of familiar faces, everyone in the house was rad, most people were up and on it early so the mornings were quiet, but in the evening we would usually all have a good laugh and gradually get to know each other better. Alex, Tejay and Logan were wicked, we had a mega day up on ‘Cease and Desist’ – the local trail – where we all rode in trains, those with seat-posts under a foot high could catch some air while EF boys had to keep those wheels a bit lower to the ground if they didn't want to get ejected forwards! Eventually, fun led to more fun until Logan went over the bars off a blind drop. It was cool to cruise round with local Collin, who knew all the spots we would like to ride, so every day we got out and found something sick to ride. You had to pedal hard for some stuff, but if you put the work in there were some decent stuff to be had. We finished the trip on highlight - big crew round the fire laughing and chatting about the last few days.”